According to linguist John Haiman at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, sarcasm is "practically the primary language" of modern society. Aside from the worrying implication that we might all be dicks, there's another problem: Processing sarcasm uses up precious brainpower. When a stranger at the bus stop notices your orthopedic Keds and tells you, "Nice shoes," your brain has to not only process the words themselves, but then factor in his tone of voice, the context, and his body language. If you're not particularly quick on the uptake, by the time your brain finishes deciphering that puzzle and forms an appropriate response -- namely, "Hey, fuck you, buddy" -- you may find that the man has already left. Along with your bus. And most of your dignity.
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Your first hint should've been that not even the CEO of Keds would call those things "nice."
It may not be your fault, though. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco discovered that people with frontotemporal dementia have a particularly hard time detecting sarcasm. Not only that, but other neurological conditions, such as autism, head injuries, brain lesions, schizophrenia, or even a stroke, could be behind your inability to understand teenagers. In other words, the fact that your mom keeps taking articles from The Onion literally may be indicative of a more serious problem than you thought.
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"Hi, Shady Springs Retirement home? Mom's ranting about the abortionplex again. I think it's time."